Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Aebleskivers (round Danish pancakes)

I have a serious love of breakfast.  I like savory eggs and bacon, egg in a hole, savory french toast.  But I love a good sweet breakfast too.  Just a slightly sweetened pancake batter with blueberries, pancakes with quinoa, waffles that I can tear apart with my hands to dip into real maple syrup.  The list goes being that it is one of my favorite meals, I have a lot of specialized equipment which I don't use too much for regular cooking.  I have a Belgium liege waffle iron, a regular waffle iron, a juicer so I can have fresh squeezed orange juice with all the delicious things I make.  So this year, with my Scandinavian brunch in mind, I purchased a Danish Aebleskiver pan.  To great thing about these are that they are small and bit sized, but have many variations as you can stuff them with a teaspoon of jam or make them savory with cheese and scallions.  Here is the basic recipe which came from Nordicware's Breakfast cookbook which is sent with the pan.  I haven't have much time to try many variations, but I dream about the different ways they can be made and I long to crave another sweet day to knock out more....I think peanut butter and chocolate chips may be high on the list.
Danish Aebelskivers
Makes 21-35 aebelskivers

3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Butter for greasing the pan

Beat egg yolks with sugar and salt.  In another medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter gently.  Heat the aebleskiver pan over medium heat.  Brush a little butter into each well and add about a tablespoon (or until about 2/3 full).  Cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Turn with a chopstick and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove when browned on both sides.  Place in a dish in a low heat oven to remain warm until serving.  Serve with jam, syrup or your favorite topping.

Krumkake (crumb cake)

My grandma on my dad's side was 100% Swedish.  It was because of her cooking traditional Swedish goods for Christmas which inspired my Scandinavian brunch this year.  So when having brunch there must be a couple of sweets.  While these are not very filling, nor too sweet, they are a part of my Scandinavian Christmas memories.  Each year my grandma would make tons of these to give to us to share for Christmas.  The good part is that it make a lot!  I think there were 4-5 dozen for this recipe.  They also cook up really quick so in an afternoon you can make a batch which will last a while.  So if you want to add a little Scandinavia to your Christmas, I think this is a delightful way to do it.  The irons have traditional designs on them which add to the atmosphere of Christmas.  Enjoy!

This recipe came from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas, a Minnesotan cookbook author.  While there are not many photos which many people always desire, I have never had a problem following her directions.  Everything I have made has come out beautifully.  If you are going to attempt Scandinavian cooking, I recommend having a look at her books.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
water to thin if needed

In a medium sized bowl, cream sugar and butter.  Beat in the eggs until the mixture is light yellow colored.  Beat in milk and flour until smooth.  Let the mixture stand for at least 30 minutes.  Heat krumkake iron.  (I have an electric one from my grandma so it gets hot quick.)  Spray iron with nonstick cooking spray.  Add about 1 tablespoon batter to each side of the iron and close.  Cook for about 30 seconds.  Roll off of iron with a wooden stick.  (My iron came with two cone shaped wood sticks to make the cone shaped krumkake in the photos.)  If they are too dark cook for 5 seconds less each time.  In a very hot iron, mine cooked for just 20 seconds.

Lamb Stew

The first time I remember eating mutton was when I lived in New Zealand.  Since there is an overwhelming number of sheep there, it is pretty certain that people there would be raising and eating them.  Most of the lamb is exported which leaves the less desirable mutton in New Zealand.  However, like most things, you can figure out a way to make it delicious.  While this recipe uses lamb, you can use any kind of stew meat you would like.  That being said this is a simple recipe with a ton of good tasting vegetables which combined with the meat add all the flavor to this stew without much work on the part of the cook other than cutting everything up.  You can increase or decrease the size of this stew easily as well.  Since this was part of my Scandinavian brunch, the idea is from Scandinavian Christmas.

Lamb Stew (for about 6 servings)
1.5 pounds lamb cut into stew sized pieces (about 1.5 x 1.5 inches)  (You can substitute for any other stew meat)
Olive oil (for searing)
1 leek (you can use a small onion if you don't have a leek), well washed and cut into thick pieces
About a pound of potatoes, peeled and cut into similar sized cuts as the carrots and parnips
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red chiles, roughly chopped
1/3 cup diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons tomato paste
black pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan (or into a large stock pot) and sear the lamb until brown on all sides.  Add the vegetables and garlic to the lamb and saute for about 4-5 minutes.  Add the chiles, apricots and tomato paste.  Season with salt and pepper; then pour in 1-2 cups of water.  Cover and simmer for at least an hour.  Taste for seasonings again and adjust as needed.  You can simmer this for several hours, but at least for an hour.  I made mine a day in advance, then cooled and refrigerated it over night.  The next morning I brought simmered it until it was hot throughout and then served.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta Cheese

Have you ever wondered how to make homemade cheese?  In reading through a couple of cookbooks, I discovered it is very easy to make your own ricotta cheese.  Not only will your cheese be fresher than any you could buy in the store, you can make it for quite a bit cheaper than the store bought ricotta.  You can also control how wet or dry you like it, or how big the curds are for your recipe.  You can also control how much salt is in the cheese.  All you need is milk, cream, lemon juice and patience.

Ricotta Cheese
milk (I use 2 %, but whole milk will produce more curds due to higher fat content)
cream (you can use buttermilk too)
lemon juice
salt (optional)

I usually use a gallon of milk as that way I end up with about 24 ounces of cheese, which is generally enough for two recipes of something...or one recipe of Timballo Pasta with leftovers to snack on with some fresh just picked tomatoes from your garden.

Method:  Pour your gallon of milk and about a cup of heavy whipping cream into a stock pot.  Heat on low heat for about half an hour.  At this point you will want to watch the pot because the curds will separate from the whey at near boiling point.  You want to stir regularly so that the milk doesn't burn or else it will ruin your curds.  Once it reaches about 80C, add about a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.  The acid will help the curds separate.  As you see the curds form you can scoop them out and drain them or you can wait until they are all separated and pour all at once through a fine sieve.  (I do both depending on my mood and impatience.)  Be cautious of the steam so you don't burn yourself.  You can repurpose the whey for something else (or drink it), so don't pour it down the drain.

Once the curds are separated let cool and drain until desired thickness.  Add salt to taste.  Refrigerate until you use, but you should use quickly since there are no preservatives (only the salt you added).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Marzipan and Nougat (mozartkuegeln)

I saw this recipe in Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann.  I knew I had to make it and at least try it the first time with as close to the original recipe as I could before attempting it a second time with modifications.   The basic recipe is really just an assembly of ingredients and then dipped into chocolate.
Every year when I lived in Germany, I would send my mom Mozart balls which are balls of almond paste (marzipan) with hazelnut nougat and usually a whole hazelnut in the middle.  The ones my mom liked best (and so did I) had a pistachio marzipan mixture.  Then the whole thing was dipped into chocolate and individually wrapped.  Fortunately, I can still find them for her in the U.S.  So each year they remain a part of her stocking stuffers.  So instead of just making them and sending them to her without the Mozart balls, this year she gets both.  And next time, I will try making the nougat from scratch since I now know what it is supposed to taste like.  Plus, I know that it will be needed to be rolled out between layers of marzipan, so I know the end goal.
Chocolate Dipped Marzipan and Nougat
about 14 ounces marzipan paste
7 ounces soft nougat, but firm enough to spread
chocolate for dipping (I think I used about 6-8 ounces and used the leftover for Pistachio Almond Cherry Chocolate Bark.)

You can make this in as few or as many layers as you would like.  Due to the softness of the nougat, I decided to make three layer....two with marzipan and one with nougat, but you can do three and two as well.  Roll out each half (7 oz. each) of marzipan into a 4 x 8 (approximately) rectangle.  Smear the nougat on the bottom layer and place the top layer of marzipan on top.  Gently cut into strips and then into smaller squares, rectangles or diamonds.  While cutting, heat the chocolate over water in a double boiler or a bowl which can rest on a small bowl filled with about an inch or two of water.  (Don't let the chocolate get wet from steam or it will seize and you will not be able to use it.)  Once the chocolate is melted dip each marzipan sandwich into the chocolate.  Set aside on waxed paper to set.  (I also refrigerated mine once I complete the tray.)  Once set, you can put into decorative papers and deliver as a present.  My batch made about 4 dozen chocolates.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kale Bruschetta

This was based on a recipe from Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann.   There are many good ideas in this book for Christmas.  It is on my list to make more out of in the near future.

This was another of the appetizer like finger food that I served at the brunch.  It was simple to make and it was delicious.  I wanted some greens because even though it is winter and heavier foods are usually desired, I get cravings for greens.  Kale is a good choice for this appetizer as it holds up well.  Plus, with the oven turned on low it kept these little bites warm until the guests started to arrive.  This would work well with other greens as well.  I think it would be interesting to see it made with rainbow kale to give it a little more color. 

Kale Bruschetta
1 bunch of kale, washed (dried), ribs removed, and chopped
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 leek, washed (as they tend to be sandy), chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 ounces Gruyere finely grated

1 fresh baguette, cut into slices
butter to toast the baguette slices

Toast the baguette in the butter, turning to be sure they are crunchy on both sides.  Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan.  (I used the same one that was used to toast the bread.)  Add the leek and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes, until softened.  Add the kale and mix together over a low heat until incorporated (you can cook this more or less depending on what you like).  Remove from heat and add the cheese.  Mix together so the cheese is incorporated throughout.  Taste and add seasonings if desired.  (I didn't because the cheese is salty enough for my taste.)  Arrange the baguette on a platter and put a bunch of the kale on top of each.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cold Smoked Salmon with Dill on Rye Crisp

I have never really considered myself to be someone who loves fish.  I like to eat it from time to time, but it is not something I am always crazy about because I have had some not so great fish.  I remember being about 9 years old when someone gave me some smoked fish.  I had never had it before, and I can't even remember who gave it to me.  I never had it again until much later on a trip to Norway.  My friend bought some smoked mackerel.  I loved it.  A couple of years ago when I returned to visit the same friend she asked what I wanted to eat while I was there and that was one of the things that I had to have!  On to salmon....I like it baked, broiled, grilled.  Then I discovered cold smoked love of smoke mixed with a different fish....and again I was in love.

Yesterday, I hosted a Christmas brunch based on my half Scandinavian part.  Cold smoked salmon was one of the appetizers that I made.  It is simple to assemble and the flavors are outstanding.  Nothing says Scandinavia like dill and salmon.

Cold Smoked Salmon with dill on Rye Crisp
Rye Crisp - I used 9 rounds broken into halves
Neufchatel cheese (6-8 ounces)  (You can use cream cheese if you prefer.)
Fresh dill, finely chopped (reserve some sprigs for the top garnish)
English cucumber, thinly sliced
Cold smoked salmon (about 3.5 ounces)

Put the Neufchatel cheese into a small bowl.  Add the finely chopped dill.  Mix until incorporated throughout.  Place rye crisps onto a plate.  Spread dill and neufchatel cheese mixture onto each crisp.  Place finely sliced cucumber on top of the cheese.  Place a piece of cold smoked salmon on top.  Garnish with a little piece of dill.  Keep chilled until serving.  (Don't leave it too long in the refrigerator or else the cracker will not stay crisp.)  Eat and enjoy.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lebkuchen (elisenlebkuchen)

I received this recipe when I lived in Germany.  I fell in love with lebkuchen and although this isn't your traditional baked German treat, it definitely hits the spot baked at home.  Plus, those that have issues with gluten can also indulge in these as there isn't any flour involved.  This recipe also makes a smaller batch than many cookies.  Lebkuchen is traditionally sold during the Christmas season and then those shops which had it are turned into other things (like ice cream shops for the summer season).  There are as many different kinds of lebkuchen as you can possibly think up, so feel free to change things up to satisfy your cravings for other flavors.  If you live close to a German market you can buy oblaten which are little edible discs you can eat and makes the lebkuchen a lot easier to get off the pan.  If you don't have them I would recommend baking on parchment paper or a silicon mat as they can get quite sticky without something under then to release them for eating.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 package vanilla sugar (or 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1-2 pinches of cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring
2 -5 drops lemon extract
1/3 cup candy glazed citron (you can use lemon or orange if you can't find citron)
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup ground hazelnuts
8-10 oblaten

Preheat the oven to 375F. Beat the eggs and then add sugar and vanilla sugar (if using).  Mix together until it is light and creamy.  Add the cloves, rum flavoring, and lemon extract and mix.  Then add the candy glazed citron, almonds, and backing powder and mix again.  Then add the hazelnuts, mix and then the dough to settle so it is easy to spread.  Check the consistency and add a little more ground hazelnuts if it spreads too easily.  Put the dough on the oblaten discs and back for 10 minutes.  Let cool and then decorate with chocolate and whole almonds if desired.